Ever wonder what it would be like to meet your musical heroes, and learn from the masters? Mike Barnes kept a journal during a long weekend at the Las Vegas MGM Grand last April, when he joined Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy Camp and got the chance to meet some serious rockstars: guitar god Jeff Beck and the Beach Boys with Brian Wilson. Here are some highlights from Barnes’ experience. His complete journal is online at emusician.com.
Arrival and Welcome The RRFC HQ is located in an industrial estate not far from the strip and is fairly sedate-looking from the outside. Inside, the walls are decked with rock ’n’ roll memorabilia, in a warren of rehearsal rooms, a recording studio and the sizeable live performance area with stage, backline, P.A., and multicamera recording system. Around 50 campers gathered with their instruments for de-briefing and camp counselor/band assignment in the main performance/ auditorium area. Welcome evening entertainment featured the camp counselors led by musical director Kip Winger turning in a kick-ass performance of rock classics.
How RRFC Works Each day, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., was full of rehearsals and evening counselor jams, with catered lunch and beer included. Saturday and Sunday nights went later, with every band performing at the MGM Rouge bar.
The RRFC camp counselors/band leaders/ musical directors were universally awesome: talented, humorous, musically gifted, with the patience of Job. They make the whole process easier by sending out setlists in advance for those who want to practice some songs so they arrive ready to play.
The Gear RRFC is primarily oriented for live performance and rehearsals. Rehearsal P.A., amps and keyboard backline, and headphone amps were mostly courtesy of Electro-Voice and Roland. Each rehearsal room was equipped with P.A., four mics/mic stands, drum kit, keyboard rig, and guitar and bass amp.
The recording room was basic but optimized for rapid live recording with a Roland electronic drum kit, pedalboards, and Roland M-48 live personal mixer/headphone distribution system.
The main performance area/auditorium is set up like a small club equipped with a raised stage, backline, and small-venue P.A./ amplification, along with live desk and multiple fixed cameras and live HD video mixing system.
Saturday: Onstage With Jeff Beck Performance slots for the day were drawn and each band was allocated a time to perform with Jeff in the main auditorium and have it all captured in audio/video for posterity. We landed a perfect middle slot—time for Jeff to warm up and a couple of early bands to crash and burn in nervous idolatry. All that remained was to choose exactly which of the six songs we now had under our belts in varying degrees of competence to actually play. We agreed on “Superstition” and “Rock Me Baby,” since these seemed to be most unique to our band and had decent keyboard parts for me!
Jeff, of course, delivered an insanely religious set of uniquely Beck solo work and shredded in biblical proportions as we all banished stage nerves and relished the moment of musical glory.
Sunday: Good Vibrations Sunday afternoon was the VIP performance and a meet-and-greet with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. We were all very fortunate to get intimate performances that included “Good Vibrations,” “I Get Around,” “Surfer Girl,” and “California Girls.”
After the show, Brian generously posed for pictures with the camp attendees, and the posse all headed off to the MGM Rouge bar for good-bye drinks and to setup for the final RRFC band performances. Dave Fishof joined us briefly on stage for the final curtain call and to congratulate all the bands, and then it was finally time for a last cocktail and hit the sack . . . “Elvis had left the building.”
Interested in jaming with superstars? Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp and our sister magazine Guitar Player are teaming up with guitar legends Joe Perry, Steve Vai, and Eric Johnson, for an itinerary that includes two performances, recording sessions, and interactions with the Guitar Player editors. For more information, visit rockcamp.com.